Chapter Two: Abhaile - Fergus
Gretta Miles' Flat.
Eighteen year old Fergus was sitting at the breakfast table with a bowl of cornflakes, spooning the cereal into his mouth in time too the heavy metal music that fed into his eardrums through his headphones.
He felt something hit the back of his head. He spluttered milk and half chewed cereal across the kitchen table, pulled the headphones down around his neck, and turned to see his sister Gretta standing over him with the morning newspaper rolled into a cane in her hands.
“Honestly. I’d need a bloody megaphone if I wanted to be heard in a hurry around here,” she snapped. Her strawberry blonde hair was tied up messily and she was wearing her trademark cream polyester jumper.
“Nobody in their right mind would give you a megaphone,” said Fergus. “not if they had respect for their own eardrums.”
Gretta whacked his head with the newspaper again.
“Leaving infive minutes. Go brush your hair.” She skulked across the kitchen to the door that led to her bedroom.
Fergus stood up and tossed his cereal bowl into the already cluttered kitchen sink. Gretta had told him to wash up after dinner last night, but of course he hadn’t done it. It was technically Gretta’s flat – what made her think that he should he have to wash up?
“Brush your hair.” Who did Gretta think she was? His mother?
Fergus felt his breakfast almost reincarnate itself from his stomach. Lucinda. Why did everything always end up being abouther? He stood in the kitchen like a statue for a moment, before slamming a fist down on the worktop with a grunt and heading across the flat to his room.
You know what?he thought. I’m going to brush my damn hair. And then do the hardest day’s work Gretta’s ever seen me do.
"Abhaile" Nursing Home.
“Good morning, Mrs. Dingle. Good morning, Mr. Browne – Fergus, go stick the kettle on for some coffee, will you? Good – Oh, good morning, Mrs. O’Reilly! How’s your knee today?”
Fergus skulked into the corridor of Abhaile. The entire building was laden with the smell of old people. Gretta seemed to love it, but Fergus knew people could get used to any revolting smell if they had to spend long enough inhaling it. Hopefully he wouldn’t be here long enough to get used to it.
“Morning, there, Fergus!” chirped Darren, as Fergus rounded the corner to the daycare centre’s small staff room.
Darren was twenty-eight, the same age as Gretta, and was absolutely the most cheerful, enthusiastic, lighthearted, most irritating person Fergus had ever met in his life. He was stirring a cup of steaming coffee in his hands.
“Yeah, morning,” said Fergus, lazily flicking the switch on the kettle without even checking if it had any water in it.
“Oh, don’t worry about that, Ferg. I’ve got Gretta’s coffee made right here,” smiled Darren, nodding to the cup in his hands.
“Oh. Okay,” said Fergus, switching the kettle off again, and taking a step in the direction of the door.
“Ready for another day?”
Fergus paused en-route. This was a typical Darren question. Fergus replied with averted, sky-bound eyes and an unenthusiastic “Heh.”
“Good. Because we can’t expect to keep the old folks’ spirits up if we haven’t got high spirits ourselves.”
“True, true,” murmured Fergus. He eyed the coffee in Darren’s hands. “I’ll take Gretta her coffee.”
“Oh that’s alright. I can do it.”
“No, no. I’ll do it. You… go brighten up some old folk’s day.” Fire with fire. Fergus could see the man’s mind changing by the lightening up of his sympathetic brown eyes.
He stepped forward, with one hand placing the coffee mug into Fergus’s grip, with the other hand taking hold of Fergus’s shoulder, Darren took on a solemn look.
“You’re a good man, Ferg. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.”
He walked past and vanished down the corridor.
Thank God, thought Fergus, turning. As he headed back up the hall to the Day Room, he heard screaming. He sped up, watching that the coffee didn’t splash over the side of the mug, and came to a stop in the doorway.
The armchairs were arranged in a disorganized semi-circle, each one occupying one old person. Except for one. The empty chair’s former occupant was stumbling across the room, arms outstretched, her eyes sunken and bulging in her face, fallen face.
“Help me! Oh, Jesus, Lord Almighty, help me!” she cried. She staggered forward, and started to lose her balance, leaning in Fergus’s direction.
In a panic, Fergus reached to catch her. The mug fell from his hand and smashed on the floor not far away. Holding the shrieking old lady, Fergus started to shout –
“Gretta! Darren! Anyone!”
Gretta appeared in the doorway, her face pale.
“Fergus, what happened?” she cried.
“Let me out of here, please!” the woman sobbed into Fergus’s chest.
“Ms. Harvey!” Gretta said firmly and calmly, taking the old woman under the arms and easing her from Fergus’s arms. “Ms. Harvey, it’s okay. It’s only me, Gretta. Let’s get you back to your chair.”
“No! You can’t put me back! I won’t go back!” Ms. Harvey roared, lashing at Gretta’s head with flailing arms. “Noooooo!”
Fergus was suddenly pushed out of the way, and Darren took hold of Ms. Harvey’s arms and led the screaming woman to the empty armchair.
“Ms. Harvey, you’re safe. You’re here with Gretta and Darren,” said Darren clearly. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“Mary… Mary-Anne,” Ms. Harvey was whimpering. “Let her go…”
Gretta spun around to face Fergus. “Go, Fergus. I don’t want you here watching this.”
Fergus nodded and started towards the door.
“She’s in the passage!” cried Ms. Harvey. “She’s in there. You have to let her out!”
Fergus sped up, jogging towards the exit of Abhaile, and out into the crisp morning air. The only thing worse than watching people go crazy was having their crazy words echo in your ears.
On the bright side, it looked like Fergus was getting an early morning break.